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222                                                                                                                    B. POLEVOI
looked at Alexei in amazement with her bright, round,
impudent eyes.
"Still, I am Alexei Meresyev. Here are my papers___
Are you Lyolya?"
"No! Why? I am Zina." She looked suspiciously at
Alexei's feet and added: "Have you got such good arti-
ficial feet, or what?"
"Yes. So you are the Zinochka that Fedya lost his
heart to!"
"So Major Burnazyan has been gossiping already! Oh,
how I hate that man! He makes fun of everybody. I
taught Fedya to dance. There's nothing particular about
that, is there?"
"And now you will teach me to dance, all right? Bur-
nazyan promised to put me down for moon baths."
The girl looked at Alexei in still greater amazement.
"What do you mean, dance? With no feet? Nonsense!
I suppose you, too, like to make fun of everybody."
Just then, Major Struchkov came running into the
room and flung his arms around Alexei.
"Zinochka!" he said to the girl. "It's arranged, isn't
it? The senior lieutenant comes into my room."
Men who have spent a long time in hospital together
meet later as brothers. So pleased was Alexei to see the
major that one would have thought he had not seen him
for years. Struchkov already had his kit-bag in the
sanatorium and felt quite at home; he knew everybody,
and everybody knew him. In the course of one day, he
had managed to make friends with some and to quarrel
with others.
The windows of the small room they both occupied
faced the park, of which the tall, straight pine-trees,
green bilberry bushes and a slender mountain ash from
which hung as from a palm a few gracefully patterned
leaves and only one, but a very heavy, bunch of berries,
came right up to the house. Soon after supper, Alexei
went to bed, stretched out between the cool sheets and
at once fell asleep.
He dreamed strange, troubled dreams that night.
Bluish snow. Moonlight. The forest enveloped him like a
furry net. He tried to break out of this net, but the snow
held him by the feet. He struggled hard, conscious that